April 10, 2019 / 11:28 AM / 8 months ago

UK monitoring situation of 17 F-35s after Japan crash

BERLIN (Reuters) - The British Ministry of Defence is in close touch with U.S. officials and monitoring the situation after Japan grounded its F-35A fighter jets following the crash of a Japanese F-35 in the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday, a ministry spokesperson said.

A Japan Air Self-Defense Force's F-35A stealth fighter jet, which Kyodo says is the same plane that crashed during an exercise on April 9, 2019, is seen at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Komaki Minami factory in Toyoyama, Aichi Prefecture, Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo June 2017. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

Britain, which has 17 F-35B model jets that can take off and land vertically, has not grounded its fleet, but is monitoring the situation closely.

“Safety is of the utmost importance and very closely managed on the F-35 program. We will continue to review the situation as further information becomes available,” the spokesperson said.

UK officials are in close touch with the U.S. F-35 Joint Programme Office, but there was currently very little information available about the incident, the spokesperson said.

Britain, which plans to buy a total of 138 F-35 fighter jets built by Lockheed Martin, declared its fleet of F-35B fighter jets ready for initial combat operations from land in January.

No comment was immediately available from the U.S. F-35 program office about the accident or any move to follow Japan’s lead in grounding the aircraft.

Israel’s military, which also operates F-35 jets, said there was no immediate impact on its F-35 operations.

The Norwegian Air Force has not grounded its F-35 planes in the wake of the crash, said a spokeswoman. Oslo has taken delivery of nine of the 52 F-35s it expects to order from Lockheed, and expects to receive six more aircraft this year.

The Dutch, who have ordered 10 F-35s, said they are not taking any measures. The Dutch planes are currently in Italy and the United States, with none actually present in the Netherlands.

No comment was immediately available from Italy, which also operates the stealthy new warplane.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal in Berlin, Dan Williams in Jerusalem, Anthony Deutsch in Amsterdam and Gwladys Fouche in Oslo; editing by Thomas Seythal

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